UT alumni selected as grand marshals for Austin Pride Parade

Ali Juell, Senior news reporter

After a two-year hiatus of Austin Pride due to pandemic-related cancellations, UT alumni Celia Israel and Steven Tamayo served as grand marshals for the 2022 celebration this Saturday.

Together, Israel and Tamayo fulfilled the ceremonial position of leading the Austin Pride Parade, along with city council member Kathie Tovo. Members of the community nominated and selected each grand marshal based on their work in aiding the LGBTQ+ community.

Tamayo is director of community health at the Kind Clinic, a Texas clinic that provides sexual health and gender-affirming care to members of the local community.

Israel — currently an Austin mayoral candidate — has served four terms in the Texas House of Representatives, leading numerous political efforts for queer Texans, including the 2005 Travis County campaign against Proposition 2, which attempted to limit the state’s definition of marriage to one man and one woman. She said she looked forward to fulfilling her role at the Austin Pride Parade.

“My responsibilities are just to do what I’ve always done, which is just be Celia,” Israel said before the event. “I’m just going to be happy and scream ‘Happy Pride’ to everybody.”

Tamayo said his passion for sexual health education began while studying social work at UT and has continued as he’s taught children and worked for nonprofits on sexual health awareness. In his current position at the Kind Clinic, Tamayo leads a team of staffers across the state to provide STD resources and education.

“It’s been really inspiring to see folks (on my team) at (different stages) in their advocacy journeys — to see their perspectives on their advocacy for our field and have that reignite my passion and my desire for change,” Tamayo said.

For those that want to get involved in advocacy, Tamayo said it’s important to find joy in helping others and to stay motivated.

“There’s some hard days,” Tamayo said. “But being able to be that person who is helping somebody through a rough time, or helping somebody access services that they didn’t even know existed, (is worth it). All the good stuff outweighs all the bad stuff by a lot.” 

As a member of the LGBTQ+ and Latina community, Israel said she and her supporters have worked hard to represent the diversity of Austin and advocate for real change in voting rights, housing equity and transportation safety.

“People ask me, ‘Why do you keep doing it?’ and I say it’s because Texas is worth it. The future is worth it,” Israel said.

Despite the many challenges she’s faced acting as a public servant, including people underestimating her, Israel said she hopes to stay involved in community engagement so she can contribute to the city and state that molded her.

“It’s just really cool to go full circle as a baby Longhorn and baby lesbian, to now a middle-aged lesbian with a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives who has stood up for transgender kids and stood up for common-sense legislation,” Israel said. “I’m blessed to have had this journey. It’s really just been a great ride.”